Uber faces mounting legal obstacles in India and Southeast Asia

Pic: AP.

Pic: AP.

Uber, the popular ride-sharing service that has swept American and international cities, faced a glitch in its Thailand operations this week. The government demanded that Uber suspend its services in the Land of Smiles because some drivers “were unlicensed and uninsured to drive commercial vehicles,” according to TIME. Thailand wasn’t the only country to put at least a temporary stop to Uber activity recently, however. India ordered Uber to cease operations after a woman claimed that her driver, Shiv Kumar Yadav, had raped her.

The India case seems to raise questions about the thoroughness of background checks and driver legitimacy as Uber continues to expand globally. CNN reported that Yadav is in the midst of four other criminal cases in Uttar Pradesh, two of which relate to rape and molestation charges. Yadav’s “address and background weren’t verified in his driver registration,” according to CNN. The backlash against Uber included a declaration from the government that all such unlicensed services should be be banned, but Uber reportedly has not been told to stop operating in the country.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick issued a statement saying that his company will “work with the [Indian] government to establish clear background checks currently absent in their commercial transportation licensing programs.” He also said Uber will “support” the victim and her family as she recovers and will “partner closely with the groups who are leading the way on women’s safety here in New Delhi and around the country and invest in technology advances to help make New Delhi a safer city for women.”

The company seemed to maintain an optimistic tone about its future in Thailand in a statement released Dec. 9. In it, Uber said that “Over the past few months, more and more Thai people have been cruising the streets of Bangkok and Phuket, using Uber platform and they are loving the experience” and that the company “respects the Department of Land Transportation (DLT) and its important role as the key regulator on vehicle-for-hire transport in Thailand.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that Thai Transport Minister Prajin Juntong said the government has reservations about Uber due to its “private cars that lack fare meters, among other issues.” The Straits Times noted that “Uber’s credit-card payment system did not comply with regulations,” creating another obstacle against the service.

Licensing seems a key concern for government officials in several Asian markets. The Wall Street Journal also reported that Uber’s operations in Vietnam could be illegal under that country’s laws, but that the government has said it will look for ways to incorporate the service into its legal framework. Questions have also been raised about the legality of its operations in Singapore, but the WSJ reports that “Uber says it is already in compliance with [Singapore’s] laws.”

Uber has come under fire in numerous markets, due to questions about licensing and regulations as well as competitive fairness with taxi drivers. In the U.S., the company also drew criticism after one executive made alarming remarks about whether it would be appropriate for Uber to essentially air journalists’ dirty laundry.